The candidates running to represent the 43rd Legislative District agree. When it comes to specific policy positions, there are few notable differences between them. While the first debate of the race was hardly confrontational, it did offer a chance to see candidates respond to questions on the fly and under pressure.
Seven candidates are vying to represent the 43rd district in Olympia, which includes Capitol Hill north of Madison. The six Democrats in the race gathered Sunday evening for a Democrat-sponsored debate at Capitol Hill’s Northwest Film Forum (the seventh candidate, John Eddy, was not invited as he is running as an independent).
Prior to last week, the race was perhaps most notable outside the 43rd for the possibility of electing the first trans woman to public office in Washington state. Since Danni Askini dropped out Friday, the field of candidates remains refreshingly diverse. Still, there is only one woman in the race, which prompted co-moderator Michael Maddux to ask the men how they would add diversity in the Legislature.
The “two straight white dudes” in the race, Scott Forbes and Marcus Courtney, said the race should come down to values and both said they have long supported LGBTQ and women’s rights issues. As the former chair of the 43rd District Democrats, Forbes positioned himself as a well seasoned political insider and the candidate who would do the most to build Democratic party power. In a candidate field filled with progressives, Courtney, a longtime tech industry labor organizer, struck a more populist tone when calling for an end to corporate loopholes and decrying income inequality in the state.
Nicole Macri, the only female candidate in the race, was asked about the importance of electing women to public office, particularly when the 43rd District has not had a female representative in a decade. “It’s more than just the experience of being a woman,” said the long time advocate for the homeless and low income housing. “It’s the experience of being marginalized by the dominant society that is relevant.”
After an taking an early lead in the fundraising race, trial lawyer Daniel Shih has continued his campaign fundraising blitz by recently surpassing the $100,000 mark. He cited his fundraising prowess as proof of his ability to support progressive candidates for Legislature in the Republican-dominated parts of the state. “I have the connections, the willingness, and the stamina to raise in the causes I believe in,” he said.
When asked to address the high percentage of his donations coming from outside the city, Shih said voters should not be concerned. “What that shows is people that believe in me,” he said. According to Shih, some have also questioned why many of his donations have come from Asian-Americans, which he said was partially a byproduct of the dearth in Asian-American representatives in the state.
State spending on education is poised to be an all consuming issue during next year’s legislative session as lawmakers work to meet the demands laid out by the State Supreme Court in 2012. Sameer Ranade, who has set himself apart as the strongest environmental candidate in the race, proposed meeting the funding gap through a robust carbon tax. Ranade is a campaign associate for the Washington Environmental Council.
The Republican-dominated State Senate will, in all likelihood, continue to be a graveyard for the most progressive initiatives to come out of the House next year. To combat that, Thomas Pitchford said he would work to identify LGBTQ candidates in rural areas and build up progressive candidates from the Latino voter base around Yakima and central Washington.
All candidates said they would support repealing the state ban on rent control, but Courtney came out the strongest for allowing cities to pass such measures. “We’re facing tremendous prosperity, but many are being left behind,” he said.
The debate was moderated by Noah An, chair of the UW Democrats, Maddux, who chairs the King County Young Democrats, and Hanna Brooks Olsen of Seattlish.
12 things CHS heard:
- All candidates said they considered themselves “urbanists” and agreed the city needed to add more density to meet it housing needs.
- All but one candidate supported repealing the sales tax for tampons and other feminine products. Shih said he generally supported reducing the sales tax.
- As a longtime Democratic party organizer, Forbes said he knows what it takes to pass legislation. “We could send anyone … to write beautiful bills that die in the Senate,” he said.
- As a director of the Downtown Emergency Services Center, Macri said she had changed the conversion around homeless housing in the city. “Housing-based solutions are what end homelessness and that’s where our investments needs to go,” she said.
- “We need to do a better job of articulating the revenue needs we have,” Renade said.
- Macri said Democrats have been just as guilty as Republicans when it comes to loopholes in the tax code.
- Courtney was the only candidate who said that he agreed with House Speaker Frank Chopp’s decision to block a bill that would have given a property tax exemption to developers to include affordable housing in their properties.
- Ranade said he would use his experience working at Sen. Patty Murray’s office to build coalitions with Republicans.
- When it comes to passing gun control laws, Pitchford said Democrats needed to focus on organizing against the gun lobby rather than seeking compromises. “Nothing would please me more than to turn eastern Washington blue,” he said.
- “The cost of building is not going up, it’s the cost of the land underneath,” Forbes said. “The market is not going to build the housing we need.”
- Only two of the candidates endorsed a candidate in the 7th Congressional Race: Shih supports Brady Walkinshaw and Courtney supports Pramila Jayapal.
- Candidates were each given a minute to sum up their campaign in a closing statement. Here is our summation of theirs:
Courtney: As a temp worker, I understand the challenges faced in today’s economy.
Forbes: There are few differences in policies, it’s about who will be the best at getting things done.
Ranade: We must make climate change a priority and link it to other social issues.
Macri: We need an outspoken leader on the issues of our time. I changed the discussion on homelessness.
Pitchford: I was on the front lines on the battle to change hearts and minds for marriage equality.
Shih: I don’t shy away from a hard problem, I will dive in.
43rd debate underway. Can you name all the candidates? (no name tag peeking) pic.twitter.com/UipkGld3qB
— Bryan Cohen (@bchasesc) May 16, 2016